I know what you mean. You have spoken to a person once or twice and had a bit of a conversation with them, but you don't talk to them all the time. How long does it take before you can say a person is a friend and would they say the same? It can be awkward!
I view people as acquaintances until I have spent enough time with them to call them friends, but I have a friend who views people as friends straight away and refers to them as a friend. In some ways, I think this helps her to speed up friendships because she treats them as a friend and then expects them to act as friend and so that person takes on that role: they become a friend.
It's very difficult when there are potentially other people who want friendships, but who deal with their loneliness by putting their head down, putting their headphones on, or being on the phone etc... but perhaps these are the people you can go out of your way to try and be friends with e.g. if they have got their headphones on, you could ask: What are you listening to? What music are you into? Do you like podcasts? If they are on the phone: Are you catching up on the latest sports news? If they have got their head down: are you planning to go to this uni event? What did you think of yesterday's lecture or seminar?
If people just ignore you, then I think you can safely move on. (You don't have to be friends with everybody and you want to be friends with people who are kind!)
Talk about anything and everything as long as it's not controversial, political or something that you know a person might be sensitive about. (Once you have got to know them better, you will know if you're able to talk about these things with them.) Talk about the weather, sport, uni work, the weekend, the book you're reading, the film you watched, university life, uni accommodation/commuting etc...
It's a skill to be able to initiate conversation but sometimes it's as simple as 'how's life with you?/how are you doing with the _________assignment?/have you got anything nice planned for the weekend?/ do you know any good vegetarian or vegan recipes I could try?/do you know somewhere where they sell gluten-free cakes?/ have you joined any societies?/ are you going to this university event etc...
Try not to overthink it.
Talk about how you're feeling (What you are excited, nervous or worried about and why)
In short, just be you!
All the best,
Oluwatosin – 3rd year student – University of Huddersfield